Centreville High School's Yazid Zouaimia fell 10 seconds short of first place at the Monroe Parker Invitational cross country meet on Sept. 13, but his second-place finish came with a personal victory.
Zouamia's time of 15:14 was his personal best on the 2.98-mile Burke Lake Park course, 35 seconds faster than his previous best.
"I wasn't expecting to win, but I was trying," he said. "Two years ago I finished ninth, so it's nice to improve in this race."
The race was closer than the outcome suggests. For the first mile, Zouaimia was neck-and-neck with the eventual winner, Chantilly's Chris Foley, and third-place finisher, Lee High School's Natnael Meseret.
At the midpoint, Zouaimia was in second place with Foley nipping at his heels and Meseret losing steam.
"Foley and Meseret were really pushing in the second mile, but then Meseret fell off," he said. "I was trying not to let the gap [between Foley and me] open up because I thought I could make up the ground in the end."
His competitors’ fast pace didn’t surprise the speedy Wildcat runner, but he said it was tough to keep up with Foley, the reigning Monroe Parker Invitational champion.
"I wasn't worried about a slow pace," he said. "I knew it was going to be fast with [Meseret and Foley]. "I would have preferred [a slower pace] because I have speed at the end. I knew Foley would be tough to beat, but I'm happy with the [second place] finish."
While Zouaimia's winning bid fell 10 seconds short, Centreville Head Coach Kelly Devlin predicts a strong season for the runner.
"[Zouaimia] has had a solid summer of training and he's just getting started," she said.
The boys' team finished in fourth place in the team competition with senior Mattson Heiner finishing in ninth place with a time of 16:03, and junior Bobby Kelly finishing 10th with 16:04.
Junior Juli Cuomo finished in 10th place with a time of 18:53 to help the Wildcat girls to a 12th place team finish.
"We're very happy with our team performance," Devlin said. "We're just getting warmed up for a great season."
Westfield High School also competed at the event with the boys team finishing 19th place in the team competition. The girls team did not post a score for the team competition.
"It was a good way to start the season," Westfield Head Coach Kelly Deegan said. "It's a great place for the kids to find out what they need to improve upon."
Westfield's top runners were senior Eric Mitchell, who finished 73rd with a time of 17:13, and junior Brianna Berling, who finished 54th with 20:23.
As the Bulldogs look to become more competitive in the Concorde District in cross country, Deegan knows it's going to take more work to reach that goal.
"We've got to keep working," she said. "There's no magic formula [to improving at cross country]. We just have to keep working hard."